|The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, by Ambrosio Lorenzetti (1342), Uffizi Gallery, Florence (image is in the Public Domain).|
Secular imagery associated with this time of the year often depicts the gathering and transport of firewood, and shows people struggling to stay warm indoors. People were heavily reliant on food stored during the autumn: whether grain & flour; cheeses & butter; smoked meats; salted fish; or orchard fruits & root vegetables stored in barrels. Many a family may have been spared from starvation by a supply of cheap and unappetising "red herrings" (smoked and salted for double preservative effect).
|The Canterbury Calendar page for February: the man warms his feet and socks by the fire, whilst above him hang smoked sausages and meat (image is in the Public Domain).|
Saint Valentine's Day, celebrated on the fourteenth of the month, became associated, in the late Middle Ages, with courtly love, not because the saint himself had any great credentials as a lover (if he existed at all, which many doubt, he was, as Bishop of Narnia, presumably celibate), but because of a story that wild birds begin their courtship in the middle of February. The earliest record of this tradition (and of any association of Saint Valentine's Day with romantic love) is in Geoffrey Chaucer's (1382) Parlement of Foules, although it is possible that he was drawing on earlier folk-beliefs.
" ... this was on seynt Valentine's day,
Whan every foule cometh ther to chese his make,
Of every kinde, that men thenke may;
And that so huge a noyse gan they make;
That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake
So ful was, that unnethe was ther space
For me to stonde, so ful was all the place."
Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.